Some notes on Time Management
Journal written by:
Let’s get objective folks. Right down to the technical. I could list off several reasons why your comic is failing but you could sit there and deny them all because, hey, it’s subjective. It’s all opinion, right? But today, we’re going to focus on the physical and undeniable.
Yup, we’re doing some math today. Now I know the majority of you probably aren’t math people (I’m an English major myself) but we’ll keep this simple. So there are 7 days a week, 4 weeks in a month. Easy to keep track of right? Well how many pages do you produce a week? How many pages do you produce a month?
Realistically, a person with a life is probably making a page (one, single, not plural) every 2 weeks or so. That’s about 2 pages a month, or 24 pages a year. But let’s not forget there are people who do maybe 1 page a month, so 12 a year.
Think about this. Where is your story going at 24 pages a year? Nowhere. Because you’re going to get bored and give up on it. Can you prove me wrong otherwise?
Even if you produced 1 page a week, that’s still 4 a month or 48 a year. Sounds a little better right? Well what’s going on in those 4 pages each month that moves your story forward?
If you’re the average comic writer, probably not much. One of the most common problems for both comic writers and just writers in general is pacing. Look at your first page right now. If it’s not one giant info-dump of text it’s probably just a filler page that looks pretty. Alright, fine, we can live with just one filler page.
So a week later you have page 2. What is going on in page 2? Maybe it has your character walking. That’s enough. Page 3 week 3, the character gets to the other character and they exchange dialog. Page 4 week 4, the characters exchange expressions, maybe say more words, maybe another character shows up.
That’s one month spent on absolutely nothing. And by now you’re probably bored out of your mind because you spent 1 month just making characters show up and exchange dialog (which, if you’re the average comic writer, is probably either filler dialog or info dumping).
A lot of people create comic pages in which nothing of importance happens. They spend three pages of a fox hunting a lemming, four pages of a dog walking down the street, six pages of characters exchanging banter. Remember the math. Even at a page a week your comic is going nowhere. And most people only manage 1 page every 2 weeks. How are your odds stacking up for you?
So what can you do? Well for starters, plan crap out. Seriously, sit down and write an outline for the next 3-5 pages. Determine how much time it should take before Plot Point A shows up in the story, and how much time you will spend developing Subplot B and Characters 1-5. Otherwise you’ll end up like most people working on a page by page basis, adding filler just so you can complete whatever page you’re on. Dragging on one scene ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
Yes, that was Latin. I went there.
But there’s got to be more to it right? There is. Let’s get down to the central question: what is a comic? Most of you will probably answer something along the lines of “a story told through pictures”. The key word here is a story. You are a story teller. Yet countless times people will place value on the artwork over the story itself. What is the number one compliment you hear directed at a comic? “The artwork is so pretty!”
Great, you’re an artist. But you’re supposed to be telling a story too, remember? Your artwork may be pretty, but it’s also making you spend those 3 weeks completing that 1 page, or approximately 17 pages a year for those of you doing the math at home. I ask you, where is your story going at just 17 pages a year? Nowhere.
Whenever I bring this up I am often greeted with a chorus of “But I want my work to be quality! Quantity isn’t important if you’re just making crap.” Who said anything about crap? I’m not suggesting you draw stick-figures, I’m suggesting that maybe those forests in your backgrounds don’t need every leaf to be detailed down to the veins. I’m suggesting that maybe you don’t need to detail every piece of fur or feather on your character. I’m suggesting that you find a balance between quality and efficiency. Simplify your artwork to salvage your story. Because ultimately if you want to make pretty pictures, fine. But then why bother trying to force a story into it if it’s not really there?
There’s still probably some of you out there saying “Why does it matter if it takes me a year to make 17 pages?” Or possibly “What does this have to do with my comic failing?” How many comics have you started reading that within the course of 6-12 months either was officially declared cancelled or more or less disappeared off the face of the earth? The artists just plain gave up from lack of interest.
Because it took too friggen long for their story to go anywhere. Hell, by the time it took them to get 5 pages (or 2 ½ months at the average pace) they probably realized their story wasn’t all that great to begin with, or they wanted to change something, or they don’t like their art anymore. When something takes too long people tend to get bored with it and start noticing all of the flaws. They never got very far anyway, so they have no attachment. What does it matter if they give up on a five page comic that took them 6 weeks to make? They have better things to do.
So let’s run some math real quick.
1 page every 2 weeks means 14 days to complete 1 page; 24 pages a year.
1 page a week means 7 days to complete 1 page; 48 pages a year.
2 pages a week means 3 days to complete 1 page plus an extra day; 96 pages a year.
Which of these are you capable of doing? Which one of these do you see to be the common trend? Which one of these is the most realistic terms of completion?
Tick tock my friends. Prove me wrong.
The Cardinal Rules of Time Management
1. I will avoid creating pages that do not advance the plot.
2. I will make sure there is a purpose for every panel of my comic.
3. I will use a simpler style to speed along the process.
4. I will try to make 1 page a week and stick to this schedule, barring unforeseen circumstances.
5. I will plan out my pages in advance so that I am not working on a page to page bases.
6. I will schedule for when I want certain plot points to appear in the story.
7. I will ration out how long I want certain scenes to continue for and will have a good reason for choosing their length.
8. I will not info-dump in lieu of actual plot development.
9. I will balance quality with quantity.
10. I will make sure that I have a story I want to commit to before I begin working.